My father liked to cook, but my mother did not. Cooking was required of a good homemaker, and she vowed to be a good homemaker. So she prepared the meals all the years her children were growing up, and did so reasonably well. But her heart was never in it.
My parents made a deal when my father retired—he would take over the cooking from her, and she would continue to clean up. (He didn’t like to clean.) It was a good deal for both of them.
During his retirement, my father prepared wonderful meals for the two of them and for any guests they had. I often phoned my parents shortly before their dinner hour, and during most calls I listened to a recitation of what he planned to fix that evening.
For the last two years of his life, my father lived alone, first for the eighteen months that my mother was in assisted living, and then for the six months between their deaths. Even when he lived alone, he continued to fix himself good meals—steak, chicken, seafood, pork. Whatever caught his fancy at the grocery store.
He seemed to go to the grocery store almost every day. He knew the butchers at every store in his area, and he asked them what they recommended. He’d get them to package up double-cut lamb chops or the best portion of the prime rib.
I’ve made three trips to stay in his house since he died in early January. His pantry was so well stocked that I didn’t have to buy anything until my third trip. And then all I bought was perishables. I continued to eat the meats in his freezer and the staples in his pantry.
Of course, I didn’t eat like he did. I didn’t spend hours making my dinner. I baked a quick chicken breast. I concocted an Italian casserole from sausage, pasta, and cheese. My primary goal was sustenance, not frittering away time in the kitchen. I have never liked to cook the way my father did.
My secondary goal was to use up the food left in the house. I hated to see any of it go to waste. So I used what was on hand, filling in with a few purchases.
One day while I was staying at his house, my brother and sister and some of their family members visited to sort through which mementos each of us wanted to keep. I fed them frozen pizza and prepared bags of salad for lunch.
I joked with my sister, “Dad would be appalled at how I’m eating here. And at what I’m serving you.” Which was true.
She responded with a grin, “But Mother would be proud.”
I laughed, and agreed.
What she said was also true. In addition to not liking to cook, our mother was Scotch in her thriftiness and odd in her eating habits. Although she made decent meals for the family when we were growing up, when she was by herself, a bowl of cereal with orange juice on it (she didn’t like milk) was plenty for lunch. She snacked on whatever was available.
I haven’t followed all her eating habits (I don’t like orange juice), but I eat some odd snacks, too. And this year at my father’s house, I’ve eaten whatever was available.
So my sister and I laughed together about our parents’ quirks. As we are supposed to do, now that they are gone.
What habits of your relatives have caused laughter in your family?